A Real Dialogue Would Have Been BetterÂ
President Carter's speech at Brandeis University on Tuesday should have been a real debate. Instead, it was a one-way dialogue with pre-screened questions and no rebuttals. Had Carter allowed the dialogue he says he wants to provoke, we all could have learned something.
Not only did Carter refuse to debate me; he refused to debate anybody. Now some of the same hard-left radical students and faculty who invited him to speak at Brandeis-and tried to censor me and others-have invited Norman Finkelstein to deliver an address at the university.
In the announcement of Finkelstein's scheduled appearance, Kevin Conway-a spokesperson for the "Radical Student Alliance"-described Finkelstein as "a world renowned expert on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict." Nothing could be further from the truth.
Finkelstein has never even visited Israel. When he recently tried to testify as an "expert witness" for Hamas, a federal judge concluded that he did not have any expertise, essentially characterizing him as a crackpot. This was consistent with other, similar characterizations.
A New York Times review of Finkelstein's book The Holocaust Industry observed:
. . . [Finkelstein] combines an old-hat 1960's view of Israel as the outpost of American imperialism with a novel variation on the anti-Semitic forgery, ''The Protocols of the Elders of Zion" . . . verges on paranoia and would serve anti-Semites around the world . . . This book is, in a word, an ideological fanatic's view of other people's opportunism, by a writer so reckless and ruthless in his attacks . . .
Marc Fisher of the Washington Post described Finkelstein as " a writer celebrated by neo-Nazi groups for his Holocaust revisionism and comparisons of Israel to Nazi Germany." Leon Wieseltier of the New Republic wrote: "You don't know who Finkelstein is. He's poison, he's a disgusting self-hating Jew, he's something you find under a rock."
Others describe Finkelstein's theories as "crackpot ideas, some of them mirrored almost verbatim in the propaganda put out by neo-Nazis all over the world"; one scholar added:
As concerns particular assertions made by Finkelstein . . . the appropriate response is not (exhilarating) "debate" but (tedious) examination of his footnotes. Such an examination reveals that many of those assertions are pure invention . . . No facts alleged by Finkelstein should be assumed to be really facts, no quotations in his book should be assumed to be accurate, without taking the time to carefully compare his claims with the sources he cites . . .
Anyone can confirm these assessments on YouTube.com, where a clip is posted of Finkelstein's appearance on a Holocaust denial program on Lebanese TV, where he claimed that Holocaust survivors were liars and that Swiss banks-which have agreed to pay back millions of dollars belonging to deceased Jewish depositors and their heirs-never withheld any money from Jews.
Not surprisingly, Finkelstein's name was listed among the participants-along with neo-Nazi David Duke-in the infamous Iranian Holocaust denial hate orgy. But he couldn't attend because he was too busy trying to testify, as a crackpot witness, for Hamas.
He also loves Hezbollah, the terror organization whose leader said: "If Jews all gather in Israel, it will save us the trouble of going after them worldwide." Finkelstein has praised the group, saying: "[T]he honorable thing now is to show solidarity with Hezbollah as the US and Israel target it for liquidation. Indeed, looking back my chief regret is that I wasn't even more forceful in publicly defending Hezbollah against terrorist intimidation and attack."
Finkelstein is not "world-renowned," except among Holocaust deniers, neo-Nazis, radical Islamofascists and other assorted anti-Semites, who constitute his primary readership and audience. He recently commissioned a cartoon-showing me masturbating in ecstatic joy to television pictures of dead Lebanese-by a neo-Nazi cartoonist and friend of his who won second place in the Iranian Holocaust denial cartoon contest.
Kevin Conway and his fellow radicals know all this about Finkelstein, and yet they stand behind him, praise him and invite him to Brandeis. You are judged, as they say, by the company you keep.
Perhaps Conway and his fellow "radicals" don't mind being associated with Finkelstein, but I doubt that former President Carter would approve of any association with him. Unlike Jimmy Carter, Norman Finkelstein is an enemy of peace, civility and decency.
The truth is that President Carter and I agree on many issues. We both want a two-state solution to the conflict. We both want the occupation to end. We both oppose new Israeli settlements. We both wish to see the emergence of a democratic, economically viable Palestinian state.
Fundamentally, we are both pro-Israel and pro-Palestine. There need not be any contradiction between the two.
But President Carter and I have our differences, too. I favored a compromise peace based on the offer by President Bill Clinton and Prime Minister Ehud Barak in 2000-2001. Carter, however, defends Yasser Arafat's refusal to accept these generous terms, or to make a counteroffer.
In fact, Carter never mentions in his book that the Palestinians could have had a state in 1938, 1948, 1967 and on several other occasions. Their leaders cared more about destroying Israel than they did about creating Palestine.
That is the core of the conflict. It is Palestinian terror, not Israeli policy, which prevents peace.
Carter chooses to believe Arafat's story over that of Clinton, Barak and Saudi Prince Bandar, who called Arafat's refusal a "crime." Why?
We know from Carter's biographer, Douglas Brinkley, that Carter and Arafat strategized together about how to improve the image of the PLO. It is highly likely, therefore, that Arafat sought Carter's advice on whether to accept or reject the Clinton/Barak offer.
Did Carter advise Arafat to walk away from a Palestinian state? Did he contribute to the new intifada, which claimed thousands of lives on both sides? That is an important question-one I would have asked Carter had I been given the chance.
President Carter also told the audience at Brandeis that he wanted to reduce America's role in the peace process in favor of Russia, the United Nations and the European Union. To me, that is not a serious proposal. As Carter himself showed during his presidency, American leadership is both positive and necessary.
I give President Carter credit for the concessions he made in his speech. He acknowledged that the use of the word "apartheid" in the title of his book might have caused offense. He apologized for the infamous passage on page 213, which condones Palestinian terrorism.
But the President Carter we saw at Brandeis was different from the President Carter the world has seen on Al-Jazeera. The Al-Jazeera Carter said that Palestinian missiles fired at Israeli civilians are not terrorism. The Al-Jazeera Carter refused to condemn suicide bombings on moral grounds.
Even at Brandeis, President Carter continued to make the kinds of inaccurate claims that run throughout his book. He said, for example, that Hamas began a sixteen-month a cease-fire in August 2004. He said nothing about Hamas rocket attacks in the weeks and months that followed, which killed innocent Israeli women and children.
He claimed that Israel's security barrier was designed to seize land, when in fact it was proposed by liberal and left wing Israelis, and aims only to protect civilians from bombings and sniper fire. Every inch of the barrier's route has to be justified by security needs, according to Israel's highest court.
President Carter also left out some important details. Not once, for example, did he mention the Palestinian refugee problem, which the Arab states still exploit against Israel. And not once did he mention Iran and the nuclear threat it poses-not just to Israel, but to the entire world.
It was not Israel that rejected U.N. Security Council Resolution 242, which called for Israel to withdraw from territories-allowing for adjustments-that it won in 1967. It was the Palestinians, together with the other Arab nations, that said "no" to recognition, negotiation and peace.
I would like to join with President Carter in working for peace in the Middle East. But peace will not come if we insist on blaming one side in the conflict. And real dialogue, at Brandeis or in the Middle East, means talking with people you might not agree with.
It also means recognizing those who are real friends of peace and those who are its enemies.
Carter may not be responsible for the views of those who support his book-most recently, the terrorist group Islamic Jihad, who just claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing in Eilat-but he should have known that his book would become a rallying cry for some of the most bigoted, anti-Semitic and extremist groups.
 Bartov, Omer. "A Tale of Two Holocausts." New York Times (Aug. 6 2000). 8.
 Fisher, Marc. "Campus Should Cultivate Its Seeds of Debate." Washington Post (Dec. 3 2002) [Online article]. URL: http://www.washingtonpost.com/ac2/wp-dyn?pagename=article&node=&contentId=A1254-2002Dec2¬Found=true
 Reported by Finkelstein himself. Accessible at: http://www.normanfinkelstein.com/article.php?pg=3&ar=41
 Schoenfeld, Gabriel. "Holocaust Reparations," Commentary (Jan. 2001). 20.
 Novick, Peter. Offense Fenster und Tueren. Uben Norman Finkelstein Keuzzug, in: Petra Steinberger (ed.): Die Finkelstein-Debatte, (Piper verlag: Muenchen 2001), p. 159 (translated from German).
 Nasrallah, Hassan, quoted in Lappin, Elena. "The Enemy Within." New York Times (May 23 2004). 15.
 Finkelstein, Norman. "A Reply to Michael Young." [Online article]. URL: http://www.normanfinkelstein.com/article.php?pg=4&ar=15
Alan Dershowitz is a professor of law at Harvard.Â His most recent book is Preemption: A Knife that Cuts Both Ways (Norton, 2006)
Join the conversation and read Alan Dershowitz' exclusive six part series "Ex-President for Sale" on Gather at AlanDershowitz.gather.com